By Saki F. Santorelli
I have had the good fortune of working with and training several hundred patients/participants per year in the use of mindfulness meditation. In the context of preventive and behavioral medicine, mindfulness practice is a vehicle for stress reduction that assists people in learning to replenish their internal resources and increase psychosocial hardiness.
In addition, many participants report positive changes in their sense of self, including a deepened sense of self-esteem, an increased ability to care for themselves and understand their fellow human beings, and for some, a finer appreciation for the preciousness of everyday life. In addition to the ongoing clinical work, I act as a consultant and staff development trainer. These programs are tailored to individual, corporate, and institutional needs with an underlying emphasis on the cultivation and implementation of mindfulness and mastery in the workplace. Out of one such program evolved; “21 Ways to Reduce Stress During the Workday."
During a training program for secretarial staff, I was struck by their struggle to ground and integrate the stability and connectedness they sometimes felt during the sitting meditation practice into their "non-sitting" time. In response to their need, "21 Ways" came into print. I proceeded by simply asking myself "How do I attempt to handle ongoing stress while at work?" --actually from the time I awaken in the morning until I return home at the end of the workday. In what ways do I attempt to infuse mindfulness into the fabric of my everyday life? What helps me to awaken when I become intoxicated by the sheer momentum and urgency of living?
In all honesty, the awareness cultivated through meditation training has been my saving grace. Mindfulness harnesses our capacity to be aware of what is going on in our bodies, minds and hearts in the world-and the workplace. One thing we discover as we pay closer attention to what is going on in and around us is that stressors, the continual and constantly changing flow of events, are ever-present and tend to draw us away from the awareness of our true self. Meditation is the practice of returning to our true self. What the secretaries were struggling with is the gap between that awareness (sometimes) realized while sitting, and the dissonance experienced in their workday environment and their "workday mind." What they wanted was a vehicle for integrating "formal practice" into everyday life.
Although this need for integration is familiar to all of us, notions about how to do this remain largely conceptual unless we find concrete ways of practicing that transform theory into living reality. This is exactly what the participants wanted. They got enthusiastic about this as it provided them something solid to work with while attempting to be mindful in everyday situations-particularly while on the job. Since then, I've shared these with many workshop participants and continue to receive phone calls and letters from people who have either added to the list or posted them, as convenient reminders, in strategic locations such as office doorways, restroom mirrors, dashboards or lunch-rooms. I've been gladdened to hear from them and am happy that, by its very nature, the list is incomplete and therefore full of possibility.
Each of the "21 Ways" can be seen as preventive--a kind of pre-stress immunity factor or as recuperative--a means of recovering balance following a difficult experience. In addition, they are tools for modifying our reactions in the midst of adversity. As you begin to work with these, you'll notice that this includes pre, during and post work suggestions. Incorporating this 14 awareness into your life will necessitate a skillful effort that includes commitment, patience and consistence. It may be helpful to think of yourself as entering a training program, a training that is primarily self-educative and necessitates a willingness to view yourself as a learner, a beginner. Please allow yourself the room to experiment without self-criticism. Treat yourself kindly and enjoy the journey.
At the heart of workday practice is the intention to be aware of and connected with whatever is happening inside and around us (mindfulness) as well as the determination to initiate change when appropriate (mastery). A wonderful example of this process is revealed in the following story told to me some years ago by a physician friend.
"Little Green Dots"
My friend told me that as his practice grew busier and more demanding, he began to have minor, transient symptoms that included increased neck and shoulder tension, fatigue, and irritability. Initially, the symptoms were benign, disappearing after a good night's rest or a relaxing weekend. But as his medical practice continued to grow, the symptoms became persistent and much to his own chagrin, he noticed he was becoming "a chronic clock-watcher."
One day, while attending to his normal clinical duties, he had a revelation. He walked over to his secretary's supply cabinet and pulled out a package of "little green dots" used for color coding the files. He placed one on his watch and decided that since he couldn't stop watching the clock, he'd use the dot as a visual cue that served as a reminder to center himself by taking one conscious breath and dropping his shoulders.
The next day he placed a dot on the wall clock, for he realized, "If I'm not looking at the one on my wrist, I'm looking at the one on the wall." He continued this practice and by the end of the week had placed a green dot on each exam room door. A few weeks after initiating this workday practice, he said that, much to his own surprise, he had stopped, breathed, and relaxed 100 times in a single day. This simple, persistent decision to be mindful had been transformative. He felt much better, and most importantly, patients told him that he was "much more like himself." For him, that was icing on the cake.
The story is simple and direct. Using what is constantly around us as a reminder of our innate capacity to be calm and centered is essential if we wish to thrive in the midst of our cultural busyness. Years ago, while working with harried receptionists, I suggested that they use the first ring of the telephone as a reminder to breathe and relax. For many, this became a powerful agent of change. People they had spoken with on the phone for years didn't recognize their voices; they spoke more slowly and their voices settled into the lower ranges. The telephone no longer elicited a Pavlovian reaction. They had learned to respond rather than react.
FOUNDATIONS OF MINDFULNESS PRACTICE
The practice of mindfulness is like cultivating a garden. A garden flourishes when certain conditions are present. Holding the following 7 qualities in mind, reflecting upon them, cultivating them according to our best understanding--this effort will nourish, support and strengthen our practice. Keeping these attitudes in mind is part of the training, a way of channeling our energies in the process of healing and growth. Remember too that they are interdependent. Each influences the others; and working on one, enhances them all.
Every day we judge the things, people, and events that come into our lives. We label some as “good” because they make us feel good for some reason. Others are quickly condemned as “bad” because they make us feel bad. The rest is categorized as “neutral” because we don’t think it has much relevance. These “neutral” events are kicked out of our consciousness; we hardly even recognize them. When we do, we find them boring. When we make these quick judgments, we enter autopilot. We stop experiencing our lives fully and coast through our days. We get so caught up in the things we like and dislike, it is hard for us to find peace. It is important to recognize this judging quality of mind when we practice mindfulness. The next time you find yourself thinking, “This is boring,” “This isn’t working,” or “I can’t do this,” realize that it is your mind judging the experience. You don’t have to stop the judging, but recognize it and try to turn off autopilot and experience the moment. Observe the full catastrophe of life and your reactions to it.
Patience is a form of wisdom. It demonstrates that we understand and accept that sometimes things must unfold in their own time. We cultivate patience towards our minds and bodies when we practice mindfulness. We intentionally remind ourselves that there is no need to be impatient with ourselves because we find the mind judging all the time, or because we are agitated or frightened or anxious, or because we have been practicing for a while and nothing seems to be happening. We give ourselves room to have these experiences. Why? Because we are having them anyway! Why rush to a “better” one? Each moment in life is special and unique.
3. Beginner's Mind
We tend to take the ordinary for granted and fail to grasp the extraordinariness of the ordinary. The see the richness of the present moment, we need to create what has been called the “beginner’s mind,” a mind that is willing to see everything as if for the first time. An open, “beginner’s” mind allows us to be receptive to new possibilities and prevents us from getting stuck in the rut of our own expertise, which often thinks it knows more than it does. The next time you see somebody at work or who is familiar to you, ask yourself if you are seeing this person with fresh eyes, as he or she really is, or if you are only seeing the reflection of your own thoughts about this person, and your feelings as well. Try it with problems as they arise. Try it the next time you are walking around your neighborhood or the park. Are you able to see the sky, the stars, the trees, the water, and the rocks as they are right now, with a clear and uncluttered mind? Or are you only seeing them through the cloudiness of your own emotions, feelings, thoughts, and opinions?
In practicing mindfulness, you are practicing taking responsibility for being yourself and learning to listen to and trust your own being. The more you cultivate this trust in yourself, the easier you will find it will be to trust other people more and to see their basic goodness as well. It is far better to trust your own intuition than to look outside yourself for guidance, even if you make some “mistakes” along the way.
Almost everything we do, we do for a purpose. We have somewhere to go or thing errand to run. In meditation, this can be a real hurdle. Meditation is ultimately a non-doing. There is no goal but to be who you are right now, in the moment of your meditation. For example, if you sit down and say, “I’m going to get relaxed, or get enlightened, or become a better person,” then you have already introduced an idea into your meditation. Instead, just be with yourself. If you are in pain, feel the pain. If you are tense, feel the tension. Feel all of the criticisms, praise, joy, and sorrow and hold it in awareness. Then let it go. Continue allowing your mind to be blank, acknowledge the feelings and thoughts as they come up, and then let them go with your breath and allow your mind to return to peace.
Acceptance means seeing things as they actually are in the present. If you have a headache, accept that you have a headache. Sooner or later we have to come to terms with things as they are and accept, whether it is a diagnosis of cancer or learning of someone’s death. Often, acceptance is reached only after we have gone through emotion-filled periods of denial, pain, and anger. These stages are a natural progression of acceptance, of coming to terms with things the way they are. Instead of avoiding truth, embrace it. Look for opportunities of growth rather than seeing only the negative and painful. Acceptance does not mean you have to like everything, or that you have to take a passive attitude toward everything and abandon your principles and values. Instead, we accept the present as it is- nothing more and nothing less. We appreciate the moment we are given and make it special and positive. The only thing we can be sure of is that this moment will change, and by focusing on being alive in the present we can practice accepting whatever it is that will emerge in the next moment.
7. Letting Be
When we start paying attention to our inner experience we rapidly discover that there are certain thoughts, feelings, and situations that the mind seems to want to hold on to. If they are pleasant, we try to prolong these thoughts or feelings or situations, stretch them out, and conjure them up over and over. Similarly, there are many thoughts and feelings and experiences that we try to get rid of or prevent ourselves from having because they are unpleasant, painful, or frightening in one way or another and we want to protect ourselves from them. In the meditation practice, we intentionally put aside the tendency to elevate some aspects of our experience and reject others. Instead, we just let our experience be what it is, and practice observing it from moment to moment. Letting go is a way of letting things be, of accepting things as they are. Letting go is not such a foreign experience. We do it every single night when we go to sleep. We lie down on a padded surface, with the lights out, in a quiet place, and we let go of our mind and body. If you can’t let go, you can’t go to sleep. Most of us have experience times when the mind just would not shut down when we got into bed. This is one of the first signs of elevated stress. At these times, we may be unable to free ourselves from certain thoughts because our involvement in them is just too powerful. If we try to force ourselves to sleep, it only makes things worse. So, if you can go to sleep, you are already an expert at letting go. Now, you just need to practice applying this skill in waking situations as well.
-Adapted from Kabat-Zinn, Jon. Full Catastrophe Living (Revised Edition): Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness. New York. Bantam Books, 2013.
Well, your resume worked and now you have an appointment for the all-important job interview. You have done your homework. You are confident that you can answer anything the interviewer throws at you. Finally the big day arrives and the final important choice must be made. What should you wear?
It is no secret that how you look has everything to do with the first impression you make. A first impression is made in the first 27 seconds. If you are too formal in your appearance, you might give the impression of being rigid and stuffy. If you are too casual, you may send the signal that you do not take the interview or the job very seriously.
Begin by talking to employees of your potential new employer and find out what the dress code is and how seriously management takes it. If you can't find out this information, you should choose clothing that is professional in the impression it gives.
If you do not already own clothing that will work on an interview, you should go to a store where you can get good advice from the sales person. Be prepared to have the clothes tailored. No human being completely fits in clothes that are off the rack. To make the best impression the clothes must be altered to fit and accent your best features.
The following ideas can never be neglected:
Even after you are successful in getting the job, you should continue to pay attention to your wardrobe. Interviewing for that first job is only the beginning in the role clothing will play in your career.
You should regularly add pieces made of high quality, long wearing fabrics. It is best to buy separates that you can mix and match with the pieces that you already own. Each piece you buy adds to the variety of looks you can achieve. You may ask why this is important. The reason is that even after you have the job you sought, you might like to be considered for advancement and promotion. The impression you leave on the job every day will be added to your performance when the boss looks around for someone to promote.
Regardless of how good your resume may be, and how much experience you have, it is unlikely that you will be able to move very far in your career if you are not able to perform well in job interviews. Luckily, you can learn to perform well in interviews.
Start with these ten tips:
1. Make sure you remember everything you have said about yourself in your cover letter and resume. Review both the day before your interview if possible.
2. Bring to the interview a copy of your resume, in an attractive folder, for everyone with whom you will be meeting.
3. Dress for success; that means looking as professional as possible.
4. Avoid slang. You want to sound as professional as possible.
5. Do not be critical of past employers, co-workers, or anyone else in your personal or professional life. Do talk about people who have helped and positively influenced you.
6. Nod in agreement when you agree with the interviewer. Maintain eye contact. Smile. Sound happy.
7. Carefully research the organization at which you are interviewing. The more you know about it the better.
8. Have answers prepared for the most commonly asked interview questions.
9. Arrive early. If you do not know the way to the interview site, make a "practice" trip to avoid getting lost on the actual interview day.
10. Thank your interviewer at the conclusion of the interview, shake his/her hand, and follow up with a thank you note that reiterates your interest in the position in question.
Finally, here is the interview tip that surprises almost everyone. Give your interviewer as much opportunity to speak as possible. Research has found that the longer the interviewer speaks, the more likely the candidate is to be hired.
21 Ways to Reduce Stress During the Workday
By Saki F. Santorelli
1. Take a few minutes in the morning to be quiet and meditate--sit or lie down and be with yourself...gazing out the window, listen to the sounds of nature or take a slow, quiet walk.
2. While your car is warming up, take a minute to quietly pay attention to your breathing.
3. While driving, become aware of body tension, e.g. hands wrapped tightly around the steering wheel, shoulders raised, stomach tight, etc. Consciously work at releasing, dissolving that tension. Does being tense help you to drive better? What does it feel like to relax and drive?
4. Decide not to play the radio and be with yourself.
5. Stay in the right lane and go 55 miles per hour.
6. Pay attention to your breathing or to the sky, trees, etc., when stopped at a red light or a toll plaza.
7. After parking your car at your workplace, take a moment to orient yourself to your workday.
8. While sitting at your desk, keyboard, etc., monitor bodily sensations and tension levels, and consciously attempt to relax and let go of excess tension.
9. Use your breaks to truly relax rather than simply "pause". For example, instead of having coffee and a cigarette, take a 2 - 5 minute walk, or sit at your desk and recoup.
10. At lunch, changing your environment can be helpful.
11. Or try closing the door (if you have one) and take some time to consciously relax.
12. Decide to "stop" for 1-3 minutes every hour during the workday. Become aware of your breathing and bodily sensations. Use it as a time to regroup and recoup.
13. Use the everyday cues in your environment as reminders to "center" yourself, e.g. the telephone ringing, turning on the computer, etc. Remember the "Little Green Dots."
14. Take some time at lunch or break to share with close associates. Choose topics not necessarily work-related.
15. Choose to eat one or two lunches per week in silence. Use it as a time to eat slowly and be with yourself.
16. At the end of the workday, retrace your activities of the day, acknowledging and congratulating yourself for what you've accomplished and make a list for tomorrow.
17. Pay attention to the short walk to your car, consciously breathing. Notice the feelings in your body, try to accept them rather than resist them. Listen to the sounds outside the office. Can you walk without feeling rushed?
18. While your car is warming up, sit quietly, and consciously make the transition from work to home. Take a moment to simply be; enjoy it for a moment. Like most of us, you're heading into your next full-time job: home.
19. While driving, notice if you're rushing. What does this feel like? What could you do about it? Remember, you've got more control than you can imagine.
20. When you pull into the driveway or park your car, take a minute to come back to the present. Orient yourself to being with your family or household members.
21. Change out of work clothes when you get home; it helps you to make a smoother transition into your next "role." You can spare the five minutes to do this. Say hello to each of the family members; center yourself at home. If possible, make the time to take 5 - 10 minutes to be quiet and still.
You can teach a lot of things. You can teach someone how to tie a shoe. You can teach someone how to play basketball, softball, or soccer. You can teach someone advanced algebra. You can teach someone how to use a certain software on the computer. You can teach someone how to drive a car. There are a lot of things out there that you CAN teach. These all seem like important things and to some degree they are.
But can you teach things like passion? Or enthusiasm? I think it's all harder than we might like to think. Sometimes I believe that those things can't be taught. You have to have the heart and mindset to have those traits.
So, why am I writing this you ask? Where is this all going? And why should you care? Well, the answer is quite simple. If you are in the workforce or workplace, whatever you want to call it, you should care. You should care A LOT!
You can teach anyone to push paper, to make a cute graphic, to write a business letter. But getting that person excited about doing x,y, and z is not something you can teach. Which, if you think about it, someone not excited about the work they are doing will probably result in the work being mediocre and no one wants that. At least I don't.
Having an employee or even higher up bosses/managers not have passion about the work they are doing just makes it business as usual. And who wants business as usual? The answer should be NO ONE!
Heres some food for thought: YOU CAN'T FAKE PASSION. And eventually it will show in your work.
So, next time you have two people up for the same job, one may be a bit more qualified than the other, but the other has more passion and enthusiasm for what they do, hire the passionate person. You will see more goals reached than you would if you didn't hire him or her.
And that's just my take on the subject. Passion>Skill Sets
by Allison Bicknell
"Thank you." "Please." "You're welcome." These words seem simple to say, right? Not too long and quick to the point. Then why is it nowadays so hard for people to say these words? Manners, politeness and gratitude are obviously not important anymore, to some people. And it is not sitting well with me.
Here is some food for thought:
NO ONE IS TOO IMPORTANT NOT TO BE POLITE.
No matter who you are, what you do, how much you make, the color of your skin, and the car you drive it does not make you immune from showing gratitude or being polite.
Theodore Roosevelt said, “Politeness [is] a sign of dignity, not subservience.”
Subservience, for those of you who don’t know what it means, is the willingness to obey others unquestioningly. What the 26th President of the United States was stating in regards to his quote was being polite does not make you weak or submissive, but it makes you noble and respectful.
A lot of people like to blame someone or something. It’s easy. I hear a lot of people in my life say something to the extent of, “Well, this millennial generation has no respect for anything or even know what manners are.”
Enough blaming the millennial generation. It’ not just them. I have come in contact with adults (Boomers) that are just as or even ruder than someone my own age. So, enough putting the blame off on other generations. It’s old and overused.
The fact of the matter is, PEOPLE, not all but some, demand or feel that they are owed something. But in fact, no one is owed anything in this world. NO ONE.
A “Please and Thank You” can go a long, long, looooong way. Showing gratitude big or small can go a long, long, looooong way. We as people need to start showing gratitude everywhere we go. In the workplace, at the grocery store, in our homes. If we want to make a change or impact in the world, we have to start with ourselves. Start with a please.
I've been meaning to write a blog post for 3 days now. No, I haven't been slacking--even though some of you might be thinking that. Then again other things have come up, which made it easier to put off. I have been going to the same page or word document, or whatever you want to call it, and have been typing stuff and then deleting it. You want to know why? It's because I have this little thing called writers block. And it sucks.
Creative writers block is literally the worst. I have so many things I want to say, but I just can't seem to get anything to flow correctly or it sounds stupid or I keep thinking, "no one will read this, start over." Yeah, so not only am I dealing with writers block, but self-doubt.
The only way to get rid of both of those things is to step away and take a breath. So, that is what I did.
Struggling with writers block is nothing new to me. It happens from time to time, okay, who am I kidding it happens all the time! But every time it happens I become so over dramatic like it is the first time that it has ever happened to me.
Anyways, my inspiration for this blog comes from my writers block. And I am going to tell you how I am able to overcome this struggle.
Rule 1: I have to step away from the computer. I can't keep staring at a words being written and then typed away. I may do that for a little bit, but eventually I have to get up and change my scenery. Stepping away gives me time to think and to stop thinking too. Not thinking about what I want to write actually helps me write better.
Rule 2: I have to find inspiration somewhere. It can be small, like a funny meme or a text message. Or even the music I am listening to. You can find inspiration in the oddest places. Find something that gives you the lightbulb over your head.
Rule 3: Collaboration is a big part of how I operate. I need to ask someone for advice or just have a simple conversation with them. Asking people for help doesn't make you less of a person or writer or whatever. I think it makes you more of a person or writer or whatever. When I collaborate with people I utilize a resource that we may take for granted. Guys, when you sit down with other people the ideas just flow and flow and flow. Try it!
Just always remember to be confident in your work and yourself.
Something I need to remind myself everyday.
Why do you get out of bed in the morning? I mean, seriously. You could easily turn that alarm clock off and roll back over. Something must trigger you to get moving. Okay, I am not talking about the scientific part here. I am not talking about how the brain starts going and it makes everything else move. I am talking about, what gets you moving in the morning? What makes you want to go do your job? Or go to school? Or do whatever it is you do. What makes your heart desire to get you out of bed in the morning?
For some people it's simple. Money. They simply are driven by the pay check. And hey, that's fine! For other people, it’s for someone else. They are doing it because “Joe” wants/needs them to. Again, if that’s how you operate, kudos to you. And then there are the ones who wake up because they have a burning passion and love for what they do day to day. They get out of bed because it simply excites them to start their day.
I am one of the ones that wakes up in the morning because I love what I do.
"Okay," you are thinking. Then what is it that makes you love what you do day to day?
Answering that question is simple for me. I get to interact with people. Hear their stories, their successes, their failures, and their journey. I get to make a big deal about them! I get to shine the spotlight on them.
My boss created a podcast called “Leaderkast.” Yes, replace leader with pod and you got Leaderkast! Anyways, I have been helping him get it off the ground and launch our first Leaderkast episode! Well, this week that is all going to happen. And I am so flippin’ excited.
Leaderkast is designed to celebrate people’s successes and their journeys that lead them to where they are today. Now, how cool is that? Pretty cool if I do so say so myself.
So, yes, I get out of bed in the morning because I love what I do. I love to celebrate people. I love to hear the highs and the lows. I simply just love to hear people’s stories. But not only do I just love to hear these things, I love to share them with the world. People’s stories shouldn’t go unheard and I am so happy I am in people business.
I have never cooked chili in my life and I was about to cook it for thirty-five plus people. Okay, yeah I know what you are thinking, "How have you never cooked Chili?" I don't know. Well, I do. I am not much of a cook! I digress.
Anyways, my Friday started a bit differently than it usually does. I was headed to Downtown Augusta. After a few wrong turns and yelling at my GPS I finally found the parking lot for the Ronald McDonald House.
The building was beautiful. The overwhelming feeling of comfort and security came over me when we (my co-worker Taylor and I) walked through the doors. We we're greeted with smiles and given directions to the large kitchen where we were going to be cooking for the day!
Now, before I go any further, for those of you who don't know, the Ronald McDonald House houses families that have sick children so they can be close to each other and close to the resources they need. This house allows them to eat, sleep, and relax together as a family without the worry of being to far from a doctor or hospital. This is a completely 100% Non-profit organization who survives and thrives on donations!
Once we got all our ingredients on the counter we got right to it! Cutting onions, which made us cry, cooking meat, and doing all the mixin' and fixin' to get that PEAK Boom Chili recipe to just about perfect! After sweating it out in the kitchen and letting the Chili sit for a little bit in the crock pot we had a Ronald McDonald employee taste-test our creation! Let's just say she absolutely loved it!
It was more than just cooking chili. We were able to prepare a meal for families who probably haven't had the time to sit down together and enjoy (to the best of their ability) a home cooked meal. It was a simple task, but the outpouring gratefulness and "thank you's" we received as we were walking out the door made my first time cooking chili one I will remember, always.
It was never about our recognition. It was never about "look at us" or "look what our company did for you." It was just simply making a change in someones day. Making someone smile. Making someones day a little bit easier.
I work at more than just a company. I work for an organization that values helping people, making a change, and putting others before ourselves. So, I am thankful for not having "business as usual" and able to spend my Friday helping someone in need.
1109 Medical Center Drive, Building 7E
Augusta, Georgia 30909